US Denial of California Emissions Waiver Criticized
- Is the corporate media, too, in on efforts to stall action on global warming?
US Denial of California Emissions Waiver Criticized
By Margot Roosevelt
The Los Angeles Times
Friday 11 January 2008
Senator Boxer, chairman of a Senate environment panel, says she might
subpoena documents concerning possible White House interference.
Congressional critics launched an offensive against the Bush
administration Thursday for denying California and other states the
right to adopt strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee, said she would consider
issuing a subpoena for documents that might show White House
interference in the Dec. 19 decision to deny California a waiver to
enact its own rules under the Clean Air Act.
"This outrageous decision . . . is completely contrary to the law
and science," Boxer said in a briefing with state officials at Los
Angeles City Hall. She held up an empty cardboard box as a symbol of
the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal so far to provide the
hefty technical and legal backup that normally accompanies air
pollution waiver decisions and are usually published in the Federal
The EPA's decision was in part based on the assertion that global
warming, caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, is a
worldwide problem rather than a California issue, and therefore
requires a national, rather than a state-led, solution. EPA
administrator Stephen L. Johnson said an energy bill signed by
President Bush last month would adequately control greenhouse gas
emissions by requiring a 35-mph fleet-wide fuel economy average by
But the air board has calculated that more greenhouse gas would
be emitted under the federal plan than under California's blueprint.
California already has the nation's most severe smog and soot.
And scientists have found that by warming the air and increasing
humidity, carbon dioxide emissions increase concentrations of ozone
and fine particulates, which are linked to heart attacks, asthma and
other diseases. A Stanford University study released last week
calculated that California would have several hundred additional
deaths each year due to the effects of global warming.
Using a computer model to simulate global pollution changes and
factoring in the health effects confirmed by previous studies, Mark
Jacobson, a Stanford professor of civil and environmental
engineering, concluded that about 21,600 people worldwide could die
each year for each degree Celsius of temperature increase.
"With six of the 10 most polluted cities in the nation being in
California," Jacobson said, "that alone creates a special
circumstance for the state."
California's landmark 2002 law requires new automakers to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes by 30% by 2016. Under
the Clean Air Act, the state is allowed to issue its own rules,
because it had a pollution program before the act was passed.
States may choose to follow the federal model or California's
rules, but only if the EPA issues a waiver to California. The agency
has done so in more than 50 other cases over three decades
California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who sued the EPA last week in
an effort to overturn the decision, said the agency was delaying the
issuing of legal and technical documents to stall court action.
"Subpoena these guys," he urged Boxer. "Send the marshals out.
Get them to tell us under oath. They are not going to get away with
this. Sooner or later, we are going to uncover real corruption . . .
that is dangerous to California and to the whole world."
Brown said that the Bush administration may be able to delay
court action a year, until the president's term is over, but that
Congress may be able to speed the process. "What you have is a bunch
of scofflaws in the White House," he said. "This fellow Johnson is
becoming a stooge in a really pathetic drama that hopefully will not
play out much longer."
Johnson is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee in
Washington on Jan. 24. An EPA spokesman said, "The official decision
documents are being prepared, and they will be released soon."
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state Air Resources Board, said
that if the court did not act quickly, the board would outline other
options for requiring greenhouse gas cutbacks from automobiles,
including fees and incentives. She said the California standards,
which are scheduled to begin to take effect in 2009, could be met by
auto companies with existing technology. So far, she said, 12 states
have chosen to adopt California's standards, pending a waiver
approval. Others are in the process of doing so. If all 50 states
adopted California's law, it would reduce the amount of carbon
dioxide emissions by 1.4 gigatons, about twice what the federal
standards would achieve by then, Nichols said.
The outcome of the tailpipe issue may be determined by the next
administration, said Brown, who added that he had written the
presidential candidates to ask their positions on the waiver. All the
Democrats support California's position, but only one Republican,
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), answered Brown's letter in the affirmative.
Testifying Thursday, Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra
Club, urged Californians to focus on the Feb. 5 primary and demand
that all candidates endorse the waiver. Although polls show that
Americans overwhelmingly support strong measures to curb global
warming, and 150 New Hampshire town halls approved resolutions urging
candidates to address global warming, the issue has been largely
dormant in the presidential campaign, Pope said.
He blamed the news media, citing a study issued last week by the
nonprofit League of Conservation Voters, which reviewed 140
interviews and debates of the presidential candidates. Of 2,484
questions asked by the top five political reporters on television,
the study found, only three mentioned global warming.